The Learning Centre:
Two quick tips for a money-smart March Break
(Reading time: 4:00)
Whether you plan on spending it at home or away, March Break is one of those times of year when you need to be extra mindful when it comes to your money.
That’s because with more free time on your hands comes the need to fill that time doing something—which typically comes at a cost.
If you have kids, those costs can quickly add up.
To put it into perspective, during the past few years, the typical Canadian family spent (on average) an extra $600 on activities for their kids during March Break. Some families spent as much as $1,000, with 61% not even setting any spending limits for the week.
While it might be tempting to throw all spending caution to the wind during your pre-spring respite—sticking to the following two tips instead will ensure a March Break that doesn’t also break the bank or rob you blind.
#1: Set yourself a March Break budget.
It’s one of the more obvious tips—and one you’ve most likely heard time and time again, yet most people are still not making budgets a priority. However, they really should be. With Canadians now carrying a debt load of $1.76 for every dollar of disposable income, the time for providing yourself with some kind of spending parameters (particularly during peak ‘spending times’ such as March Break) is now.
Use our handy budget calculator to help you build your own March Break budget, right now.
Bonus March Break budget tips:
- Stick to cash:Studies have shown that people spend 100% more at vending machines and on event tickets and 15% more overall when they use credit cards. Going ‘back to basics’ with cash will make it harder for you to make any hasty splurge purchases during your March Break vacation or ‘staycation’.
- Set daily ‘allowances’: Besides ensuring that you spend within your means over March Break, setting daily allowances can also be a fun way to engage your kids on the subject of financial literacy and encourage good spending habits (I.e. by teaching them about the benefits of money management).
- If you need to use credit, remember the 35% rule: This means keeping your credit card balance to under 35% of your total limit (known as the ‘utilization ratio’). Besides making the balance easier to pay off, staying within this ratio will also ensure that you maintain a positive credit score.
Plus stretch your money further with these March Break budget boosters:
- Tap into your educator-specific perks: While being an education member comes with many responsibilities, it also comes with several ‘spending perks’ that are very specific to you. Perks such as Edvantage and ChalkboardPlus+ that, when actually utilized, can add up to a great deal of savings.
- Cash in on those air miles, rewards, and points: With $16 billion in unredeemed loyalty points in Canada alone, consider finally cashing in on whatever unused points you’ve racked up to enjoy discounted (or even free)meals, activities, transportation, or hotel stays during March Break.
- Choose bookings that offer value adds: If you’ll be staying in a hotel during your March Break getaway, consider booking one that offers a daily complimentary breakfast and/or free activities and amenities (if available).
In need of a little guidance when it comes to ‘budgets’? Here’s how to build a budget that works.
#2: Protect your money from financial scams.
Being money-smart during March Break is also more than just about setting a budget—it means taking precautions to protect that budget. With Canadians losing close to $100 million to scams in 2019, it’s well worth taking the time to securely cover your bases when it comes to planning for and spending during March Break.
Here are a few ways to protect your money from scammers:
- Only book through reputable and secure websites: One way to ensure a website is secure is to check the URL for an SSL certificate (I.e. ‘https’ which = secure, versus ‘http’ which = not secure). Never enter/submit information on a payment page without an SSL certificate.
- Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service: This could be especially useful if you’re planning a March Break trip overseas, as these types of services send you alerts about potential fraud and suspicious credit activity during your travels (by text, email, phone, etc.).
- Carry an RFID-blocking wallet and passport: Radio frequency Identification is a type of electronic pickpocketing used to collect sensitive information from your wallet. Purchasing an RFID-blocking wallet and passport can preemptively protect you from falling prey to credit fraud and identify theft.
- Beware of tampered/monitored ATMs: Scammers are becoming increasingly clever in order to capture your information. Things to be on the look out for include a loose PIN pad, a loose and/or blocked card slot (or one that is wider than your debit/credit card), and a camera that is placed in direct eye-line of the PIN pad (hence why you should always cover the PIN pad with your hand).
- Keep up-to-date on travel advisories: This is again of particular importance if you’re planning on doing any overseas travel during March Break. From safety and security (including fraud) to diseases and natural disasters, staying in the loop as to where you should or shouldn’t go will prevent your dream vacation from turning into a nightmare (click here for the latest travel advisories).
If you’re the victim of fraud/identity theft (or think that you might be):
- Contact your financial institution and cancel/replace your debit/credit card(s) if necessary
- It’s a good idea to also change all PINs and passwords (for your cards, online banking, etc.)
- Report the suspected fraud to your local authorities and to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre
- If your SIN card is missing or stolen, contact Service Canada
Looking to maximize your budget during March Break or any other time of the school/calendar year?
Call on Educators Financial Group—helping education members meet their financial goals since 1975. No matter where you are on the pay grid or what your pension income is in retirement, we can provide you with sound financial advice to maximize your budget, whatever that happens to be.
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The information provided is general in nature and is provided with the understanding that it may not be relied upon as, nor considered to be, the rendering of tax, legal, accounting or professional advice. Please ensure to consult your accountant and/or legal advisor for specific advice related to your circumstances. Educators Financial Group will not be held responsible or liable for any losses, costs, damages or expenses incurred by reason of reliance as a result of the aforementioned information. The information presented was obtained from sources that are believed to be reliable. However, Educators Financial Group cannot guarantee their completeness or accuracy.